When I was still in school, I began going to farmers’ markets. There were many farmers in my family and I enjoyed speaking with the farmers, learning about their farms, then enjoyed cooking with foods that had just been harvested. It smelled fresh, the ozone was invigorating and I even enjoyed the scent and look of the dirt, still clinging to the leaks, carrots and potatoes.
Citrus grower selling fresh produce in the rain
After school, I moved to Kansas City, where the famous River Key hosted a huge farmer’s market each Saturday morning. Farmers began setting up at 4 am, and I often completed my marketing as the sun came up, long before the citizens of the suburbs arrived. I had the freshest, finest produce and used it to cook, to can and create beautiful meals. Of course, I was young and still learning to cook, so the meals are probably better in my memory than in reality. You could check that with my ex-husband. His number is . . . . . .
I’ve been getting out to more farmers’ markets lately. They aren’t new markets, just new to me. I have often been disappointed the past few years when I arrive with my baskets and fabric bags, full of hope, only to see produce that is limp and past its peak. When I ask the “farmers” where they grow, they confess they’ve never been to a farm. They often go to the same giant produce markets where the grocery stores get first rights of refusal. After the produce managers have departed, the small venders come in to purchase the left overs for their stands.
Disappointing to say the least. They aren’t organic, generally not local and definitely not high quality. When I go to a “farmers’ market,” I still expect to see dirty-fingered farmers boasting of their proudly-grown food products. I expect perky, green leaves, still attached to carrots, beats and radishes. I expect to smell the freshness and nearly taste the brightly-colored produce. Why bring home something that just looks dead?
This week, I got a wonderful surprise from the world of farmers’ markets. Even before I stepped onto the grass-covered town square of Windemere, Florida, I could smell produce so fresh that it seemed to still be growing! The scent of strawberries was overwhelming. Yes, it is actually strawberry season here. A light rain misted through a canopy of trees onto the freshly picked fruits and vegetables in the cool morning. Each vendor I spoke with proudly told me about their own farm, then added which variety of produce had come from other friends’ farms. One farmer explained that he lived on the same family farm where his people had grown for over 130 years.
It is so beautiful fresh from the fields that I feel guilty cutting into this beautiful produce. It’s art!
One of my favorite, local bee keepers was there, a fabulous orchid grower and fresher varieties of fruits and vegetables than are available at most markets.
My culinary mind went into over drive as my eyes, and nose, spotted one wonderful item after another. I can’t wait to get started with this beautiful produce!
Now, that’s a Farmers’ Market.